I am now the mother of a diabetic child. I woke one morning to what would appear to have been a seemingly healthy child, but as a mother, I knew something was not right. Twenty-nine hours later, I was giving my first insulin injection to my daughter as she recovered in the pediatric ICU at K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital.
The events that transpired two weeks ago during a 24 hour period seemed like they were dragging on for years. When I recall the day we landed in the ER, it all plays in slow motion in my mind’s eye. From the steps we took from our car to our pediatrician’s office to frantically running into the ER to our first meeting with the diabetic educator, time seems to have been moving at a record-slow pace.
Today, nearly 2 weeks removed from her initial diagnosis of type 1 diabetes and finally out of the dense fog I was steeped in, I am able to go back over the events of those first few days to process what I learned, how I felt, and how we would move forward.
Those were not easy days.
Those were the days where every single ounce of patience and strength I had were put to the test. Whether I passed or failed, I’ll never know. I stopped keeping score.
But when we exited the hospital after our 2-day stint there, I walked out with not only a daughter who was happily on the mend but also a few lessons learned.
1. I am my child’s #1 advocate.
I’ve known this since my children were born, but something about a trip to the hospital really reinforces it. I cannot stress this enough. If you have a question, ask it. If you have a concern, voice it. This is your responsibility. While I understand that many parents don’t possess assertiveness, it’s even more likely that your child doesn’t either. It’s up to you to get the answers regarding your child’s medical condition, treatment plan, and overall care. If you don’t act on your child’s behalf, no one will.
2. I am not alone.
Chances are that there are other parents who have gone through or are going through the same experience you are. Reach out to friends to ask if they know of others who share your experience. While we were in the hospital, I reached out to friends to ask if they knew other parents of type 1 diabetics. I was surprised by the number of friends who knew of someone I could contact.
Join a support group where you can talk freely with others who share a commonality. Whether you are there to give help or get help, support groups are wonderful environments for making meaningful connections.
3. I am stronger than I think I am.
A month ago I never would have imagined that I’d be capable of coming to terms with the fact that my daughter has type 1 diabetes much less stick her with needles 6 times per day. But when my child’s health and well-being were at stake, I mustered the strength to do whatever it took to keep her from harm. Those things you could not imagine doing? You’ll do them without thought or fear. You’ll surprise yourself with the courage you thought you never had.
4. I need help from others.
I’m a fairly independent and solitary person. I like my time alone and am completely comfortable doing anything by myself. But when they say, “It takes a village to raise a child.”, it’s true. And when that child has special medical needs, you need support. Lean on family and friends. Engage them in the care of your child. This is not solely your responsibility.
5. Things could be worse.
Although this is something I don’t want to hear from others, it’s one of the things I tell myself over and over again. I know how lucky we are that our daughter has a disease that can be treated and managed. But diabetes is a daily struggle, sometimes an hourly struggle. Although I know it could be better, I know it could be much worse, too.
I never thought the haze would lift. But it slowly has, and our path forward is becoming clearer. With lessons learned and a growing confidence in our abilities to manage our daughter’s diabetes, we are ready to tackle this. And there’s nothing better than knowing that with each insulin injection we give her, we are insuring that she leads a healthy life.